Formative Study
To begin our user research, we created a formative study that included interviews, photo diary studies, and cultural probes. All our participants were young professionals or graduate students from the ages 23-40. These participants were recruited through our personal connections and had expressed they had a previous history of hiking. The following questions helped guide our research:

  • What gets you excited about hiking?
  • What environmental triggers remind people of hiking?
  • How do groups of hikers get together and go hiking?
  • What issues do hikers face while hiking?


We conducted 7 separate interviews with our participants. Our interviews were used to better understand hikers, their past experiences with hiking, and their thoughts on hiking. Interviews lasted around 30 minutes. Our interview questions can be grouped into the following themes:

  • General hiking experience, preparation, and thoughts
    • What is your biggest motivation for hiking? Why would you pick hiking over other physical activities?
    • Can you think of an aspect of hiking experience you wish could be improved?
    • What would you identify as the biggest obstacles that prevents you from hiking?
  • In-situ hiking
    • Can you tell us any particular incident during a hike that was a particularly bad experience? How did you remedy the situation? Can you think of anything that would have either prevented the situation or remedy the situation?
    • What do you do on hikes? Do you engage in any other activities?
  • Equipment
    • What are some of the equipments that you carry with yourself while hiking? Is any of them of greater importance to you?
    • Which equipment (technology-oriented or not) do you think has improved the hiking experience compared to twenty years ago more than anything else?
  • Social aspects of hiking
    • Who would you prefer to go to hiking with and why?
    • What ways could you think of to improve the social experience of hiking?

Photo Diary
Photo Diary

We conducted a photo diary study with 4 different people who were planning on going on a hike of at least one hour during the time of our study. We chose to do a photo diary study because it would allow us to understand both visually and verbally what the participants experienced on their hike. Participants were asked to take at least 10 photos in total and at least one of the following prompts:

  • A picture of the equipment, if any, that you bring or use
  • Any activities you do (e.g. camping, cooking, water activities, etc.)
  • Anyone accompanying you on the trip (if they’re comfortable with that)
  • Your surroundings. This could include:
    • Your general surroundings during your hike
    • Noteworthy accomplishments or landmarks (e.g. top of a mountain, end of your hike, waterfall, etc.)

Cultural Probe

Our cultural probe consisted of two parts. The first part was to have participants make a drawing of an imaginary device that would help them on their hike. The second part was to have participants write a postcard to someone to tell them about their hike. Participants did the cultural probe after they completed their hike. The cultural probe allowed us to better understand hikers’ thoughts, needs, and values and gain inspiration for ideas from their input. The cultural probe participants were the same 4 people from the photo diary study.

Cultural Probes

One of the key insights from our formative study was that having information about the hiking trails and routes is important to hikers. Hikers usually look up information beforehand or rely on trail markers on site. We then ideated and came up with some beginning design concepts, such as a pair of glasses that allows people to preview different hiking trails.


User Enactment
After analyzing the results from the formative study and ideating, we revised our research questions to help narrow down our focus and explore different tensions that appeared from our research, such as comfort vs exploration, capturing vs enjoying moments, and controlled planning vs impromptu planning. From these tensions, we created the following research questions to help guide our user enactments for this milestone:.

  • What are factors that influence people to take a certain hiking path? (e.g. scenery, difficulty, time, other people)?
  • What levels of intrusiveness from technology can people tolerate while hiking?
  • How do people want to record and share their hiking experiences with others?
  • How do people react when they are constantly having their hiking experiences recorded?

User Enactment

We designed five user enactments in order to explore the tensions and research questions mentioned above. We first brainstormed different ideas and design concepts based on the tensions and research questions. We then turned our ideas into scenarios and scenes. We narrowed down our initial user enactment ideas by determining how feasible in terms of available resources, how realistic we could make the enactment (participants should be able to easily picture how they could enact the scenario), and how much potential insights the enactment could reveal (UEs should be answering our research questions and shedding light on potential design opportunities). We recruited our participants through our personal networks. All participants were in their twenties and graduate students at the University of Michigan. All of the participants fell under our target audience of past casual hikers.

For an in-depth look into our user enactments, please refer to our project website milestone 3.

Key Insights
  • Participants were concerned with the concept of shared, public memories.
  • Participants were willing to tolerate a certain level of intrusiveness from technology
  • Participants were interested in exploring and learning about different paths they could take.

Based on all research and previous ideation, we developed an idea for TrekGlance, a pair of glasses that will allow people to navigate hiking locations, access information regarding the local environment, and discover new trails.

We created a storyboard of our proposed design concept. In this scenario, Sina and his two friends are hiking around Banff National Park. Sina was in a hurry to plan the trip, so he had a general idea of where to go, but wasn’t too sure on what the actual trails were like. The whole group decides to put on their TrekGlances to help them better understand the local environment and where to go. The system is based on augmented reality and AR markers. After wearing the glasses, they are able to access the display markers left by the state park which shows what the paths will look like. While looking around they see a tree with a code, and they are able to get information regarding the local plants and learn more about the different seasonal vegetation. An hour in the hike, they were able to find a marker that showed new potential paths that would interest them. Sina and his friends feel safe in navigating the different trails and leave feeling that they explored all the different areas.


System Concept
TrekGlance brings users information at a glance in a national park or national forest setting. It utilizes a GPS location service and displays information about various paths in the park or forest. TrekGlance also detect the direction a user is facing and provides information about the route that lies in front of them. ​

TrekGlance has 3 main features:

  • Information display: TrekGlance will show the user relevant information to their location, time, and hike, such as weather, route difficulty, route length, percentage of route completed, etc.
  • Preview path: Not only does TrekGlance provide the user with information about various hikes and trails, TrekGlance will also show a short video clip of the upcoming paths to allow the user to make informed hiking decisions.
  • Detour suggestor: TrekGlance encourages hikers to explore by suggesting detours to alternative routes or attractions.

TrekGlance makes use of the following three elements to enable the above features and form the informational layer of our system:

  • Preview database: Stores the pictures and videos that pop up when users want to preview an upcoming path
  • Location service: A location service (such as GPS) allows the system to detect the user’s location in the area and display information based on that location
  • Orientation detector: Detects the movement of the user and triggers certain information based on the movement.

During implementation, we would work with national park services to help us deploy and maintain the system. Park operators would be responsible for content curation. Park rangers would be responsible for the daily maintenance including creating content and customer service. The support staff would be responsible for hardware maintenance and updating, as well as managing web services and updating the information being displayed. Lastly, the end users who would pay a fee to use access the parks and use the glasses.

Hardware Prototype
We then set about creating a hardware prototype of TrekGlance. We focused on the experience of accessing and displaying information. To simulate the experience, there are 3 main functions that we expanded on: sensing the trigger, displaying the information, and interacting with the display. We used the following materials and process to create our protoype:

  • Glasses
    • Wood
    • Laser cutting tool
    • USB Camera
  • Display
    • Particle serial monitor
    • LED display
    • Acrylic container to project LED display
  • Augmented reality
    • AR Tool Kit
    • AR Markers

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